God Gives Enough Bread

Right after Jesus Christ Feeds a Billion people (slight exaggeration) with some crumbs of bread and fish oil (again hyperbolically speaking)….* He then speaks of himself as the bread of life. One where he references the story of Moses, God and Manna… An often overlooked piece of this story is when they gather the bread (Ex: 16:17-18)
” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” Here we have another miracle, just like the fishes and the loaves story, where everyone has enough to eat. It doesn’t matter how much they actually gathered, God provides.

In a Spiritual not religious world, I find this immensely comforting. In a world obsessed with Work (see this great: work as the new religion article here), in a world where expectation are often viewed as entitlement, in  world where “doing” things is more important than “being” things (ministry of presence, anyone? anyone? Bueller?)

Churches too often fall into the sin of work-righteousness: that’s the sin where you think what you do is more important than what God does for you, its the one where Pride literally goes before fall–from grace**. It is why church’s tend to emphasize programs instead of people, and quantity over quality of relationships. (As my mom says, better to be a great small church than the Mall of Churches where we try to do everything).

So here’s the deal. Going to church does not mean that you have more access to God. What going to church should mean is that you are willing to support one another for God, that you want to journey with others to God, that you prioritize your relationship with God and others and that you want praising God to be a thing you regularly do in your life.

God promises that there is enough nourishment, enough measure for each of us.

And God also promises that one day we will have enough, we will be nourished. One day we will be full

***

When my grandmother was incommunicative from a fall, she also didn’t want to eat. Without, her (or our) consent the hospital put a feeding tube in

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Here’s the thing, I believe that there may be a time when an older person doesn’t feel hungry anymore. Its not that they are starving (which truly is a horrifying image, which is why I think the hospital put the feeding tube in). No one wants to starve grandma. But I don’t think my grandmother was starving, I think she was full, full of life, nourished by God and done with what she wanted to do. She had, had her measure. And her years were different than my grandfather’s (who had died some years before), but although they worked a different amount of time, like the Hebrews, each of them got their measure of life. At times, I think we feel like people (especially children) didn’t get their full measure, how could they when their time was so different? But, somehow, God promises that they did. And so maybe people are accessing God differently, I know my parents weren’t following twitter, reading fantasy and publishing blogs as a part of their spiritual lives, but it doesn’t make my measure any more, or any less, than other people of faith.

So why church? Because its another way for us to find community and nourishment, when so often our shares seem to be different than everyone else’s, church means we get to share in the measures of faith others have, instead of just depending, worrying, keeping up with our own. It frees us to be varied and unique, to be communal and sharing in our measures of faith. So church then becomes part of our relationships , instead of a measure of our faith….

*despite the hyperbolic Katyisms, I totally believe this miracle actually took place…

**look, look I used literally correctly!

Holy Complaining Batman @unvirtuousAbbey

And so, God gave us complaining. As we look at the Hebrews in the desert, we notice they do a lot of complaining. Here they are, stuck in the desert, and they are hungry. So they complain, they grumble, they mummer, they complain. They realize that they are truly on their own now, they are free (through God), and in that freedom they are responsible, so they start to complain, they cast blame on their leaders Aaron and Moses (which, as Moses points out, means they are really blaming God)…

There are two kinds of complaining in the world. The overwhelming negative complaining……and then there’s the kind of complaining that bonds us together, the kind that makes us feel like a family.

When I was in College, my second week of Freshwoman year was 9/11. Through it I found lifetime friendships, and from that suffering we embraced one another, had giant sleepovers (because we couldn’t sleep in our parents room even though that’s what we wanted to do), and gave out hugs freely. This was my first, and best interaction at Oberlin. Immediately my friends and I’s motto started to be “always room for one more” causing us to continually scoot back and open up our table to the outsiders…and it mostly remained our motto (even for those who were so socially inept they had trouble even among us nerds and dweebs, although granted, THAT was difficult)

This kind of suffering bonded us together, because we walked with each other and felt some measure of the same horror that the other felt.

When my sister was joining a sorority, I was partially fascinated and partially horrified, here these kids were, afflicting one another so that the new group could “bond” thru shared suffering. That is how powerful suffering was..(my sister started to stir rebellious talks of decency and rights and never did make the soriority).

Its scary, but it also shows us how God utilizes complaining to ease our suffering and bond us together. I believe that God does not cause our suffering, I believe there is REAL and present evil at work, but I believe God suffers with us. I believe that she gave us Christ to witness, endure and walk with us in that suffering, and I believe that complaining can be a way to bind our concerns.

So when the Hebrews Complain, their surface complaint is that they are hungry, their real complaint is that they are free, that they are concerned, that they are facing the unknown and that they feel like no one is with us….

This shared experience, the whole community grumbled… is exactly what makes them not alone in the world. Because they are all complaining about the same thing, they start to coalesce , coming together as a true community and group–not one that is just universally oppressed, as they were in Egypt, but as a community that has to work together to survive and thrive, one that has to practice cooperation and trust (Truly this is why church is so important)

This is why Grumpy Cat is so popular, because he is voicing complaints that different communities can relate to! (in a caustic and snarky way), but that kind of complaining becomes confessional–we think hey, I feel like that too!

That is why we have Confession, that is why we have Joy and Concerns, because God gives us the opportunity to Open our Mouths, to admit when we feel like we are running on empty, that we are malnourished, and yet burdened, that we are expected to take on heavy loads, when we are at our limit.

And then, God does what we don’t expect.

God doesn’t condemn our complaining, mark it as sin, and then wash our mouths out with soap for our disrespect.

Instead he fills our mouths with food, so that we can’t complain. He fills our mouths with bread (living eternal bread through the communion with Jesus Christ), and meat, he fills our mouths with praise, giving us a chance to complain, helping us to come together as a community through that shared experience, and then gifting us with enough nourishment to sustain that community.

So come to church, complain (some), and share in each other’s crevices, so that they become not the cracks that make us fall apart, but instead the edges on which we grow!

PS for some Good Holy Complaining follow @unvirtuousAbbey on Twitter

Exodus 16:2-5

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

John 6: 30-33, 41-42

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[c]

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heavenand gives life to the world.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Parenting/Sabbath Hack: Kid Check-in

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Sabbath in the Suburbs... and Beyond

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My friend Ashley Goff is a part-time pastor with three kids, just as I am. When her youngest entered school last year, a friend suggested that she try to spend 15 uninterrupted minutes with each kid when they get home. Let the child decide what she wants to do—talk, read a book, play a game. The point is time together without distractions, smartphones, dinner preparation, etc. This puts a bit of structure around the afternoon chaos of snacks/homework/activities/plaintive requests to play on the iPad.

I filed that suggestion away for this year, with all three kids in school. Count me a fan of the 15 minute kid check-in.

OK, we’ve done it twice since school started.

But both times were great!

James has a little trouble when it’s not his turn, but he’s learning. I’m also learning how to deal with three kids at home in the afternoons, often while…

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Gilmour Girls: A Reading List for David Gilmour

YAY! I love this reading list!!!

The Belle Jar

This list is not as diverse as I wish it could be. It’s still very white, and there isn’t a super great representation of queer and trans* folk. It sort of ended up being both a reading list for David Gilmour and a list of my favourite books by women. Writing this has been a great exercise for me, and has illustrated pretty clearly that I need to expand my own reading repertoire – I do love women writers, but I still tend to favour white, cis-gender women. Helloooooo to my own cultural bias.

I didn’t include any Alice Munro or Virginia Woolf because Gilmour says that he likes both of those authors, and I don’t have multiple books by the same author. Those were some rules that I arbitrarily made up for myself.

Please feel free to add to this list or to fangirl with me over how much…

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Focus on the (Chosen) Family

Queer folk long ago developed the idea of “chosen family”: the idea, that is, that the people who are your actual family are the ones who behave like it, supporting you, loving you, bearing you up, holding you accountable when you need it, whether or not those folks are your biological relations.

Thought Required; Pants Optional.

3867480044_fd23456933_oPhoto Credit: Valeri-DBF via Compfightcc

This post is my contribution to QueerTheology.com’sQueer Synchroblog 2013. This year’s theme is “Queer Creation.” Links to all of the other excellent entries are at the bottom of this post. After reading mine, go forth and read more!

In order to get to what the theme “queer creation” evokes in my mind, I need to discuss a point of view about as far removed from my own as I can imagine: the views of extremely conservative and patriarchal evangelical Christianity.

My interest in those views came into clearer focus a few days ago, when I read Kathryn Joyce’s Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. It is a compelling but sobering read. In it, Joyce sketches out a portrait of possibly the most theologically and socially conservative Christians in the United States. The organizing commitment that unites the various groups in this wing…

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Everyday Faith

Everyday Faith

“Faith, as Jesus describes it, is just doing your job, just doing your duty, not because of any sense of reward but simply because it needs doing. Faith, in other words, is doing what needs to be done right in front of you and this, Jesus says, the disciples can already do. Folks who feel daunted by discipleship need to hear that sometimes faith can be pretty ordinary. That’s what Jesus means, I think, by saying that if they had the faith even of a mustard seed, they could uproot and move a mulberry tree — that it really doesn’t take all that much faith to be, well, faithful.”

“Faith, Working Preacher, isn’t an idea, it’s a muscle. And the more we use that muscle, the stronger it gets.”

Queer Creation: A synchroblog!!!

Queer Theology Synchroblog 2013: Queer Creation

May thanks to my AMAZING sister who wrote this essay in response to my questions!!!!

What is your favorite series to read? How does it relate to your real life experience? Does it help to inform who you are/want to be?

TORTALL_d_original

Well any week that you ask me this I’m likely to have a different answer, but right now I’d say I’m really fond of the quartets that Tamora Pierce has written. There’s a lot in there about strength in yourself and through friends, and showing strength in different ways. Alanna is fiery and forward, Keladry is more reserved and protective. Daine is compassionate and driven, Aly is resourceful and wily. But in the end, they each have some strength that pushes them forward and towards great heights. I identify with each of these women, in part for their strength and in part for how hard they fight. I’ve faced my own challenges, and I have learned to never stop and don’t accept defeat.

What can I say, my sister has great taste in books..what is interesting about all of Pierce is that all of her characters “Come Out” Alanna as a girl (can’t imagine how my sister relates), Daine as a wild Mage and Aly as a spy…Their coming out is natural, it is a growing into themselves and their strength, and what I appreciate about my sister’s answer’s is that its these gifts and strengths that are highlighted, the fact that they are women to look up to….that and HOPE and PERSEVERANCE which are traits that I find to be essential and what should be what we love about the Bible as much as fantasy and PS is why I read fantasy….

As Joss Whedon notes, this shouldn’t be noteworthy (Query: why do you write strong heroines? Whedon: because you keep asking me that), but it is! (PS Favorite book is a totally cheating question, one I can never answer, can I pick a favorite star in the sky?)

The story God gives us is that we are both female and male in God’s image. Do you experience yourself as being in God’s image? (I like to think that transsexual’s have a more (w)holistic sense of what God’s image is)

So there’s this weird conflict here where, on the one hand, God must be both genders- and some representations of the Holy Ghost/Spirit interpret that as female. But I can’t view God that way- because there’s distinctly more than two genders. If the purpose of the question is to establish that God shares their gender with everyone, I think of it like this. Jesus was pretty clearly male- to the best of our knowledge, he’s the son and had no issues with his body in that way. (Which is an entirely different conversation one could have, but that’s not the point here.) So if the physical manifestation was male, then to me the logical next step is that the part we cannot grasp or understand is, as the physical manifestation’s natural opposite, female and comfortable with that. Well then, what is God, both? No. God can’t be both. God must be all. Male, Female, Trans* Genderqueer, Genderfluid, Bi-Gender, Agender, Third Gender (I can’t possibly list all of them…) They must be all of them and thensome. Part of what makes me uncomfortable in most churches is the interpretation of God as Father, Christ as Son and ignore the Holy Spirit completely. What, you mean it should all be male? God and Christ don’t understand women, and have nothing to share with them? Because sometimes that’s what it feels like. And the more a church focuses on Christ as son and redeemer, the less attached I feel to the words they’re speaking, because they’re only speaking from one viewpoint and ignoring the rest.

I will try not to rant here, but there are all kinds of mistranslations of the Bible that slant God towards masculine, when God isn’t. The word for Holy Spirit (Ruach) in Hebrew is a feminine word. The word Almighty in Hebrew means the God of many mounds (i.e. BREASTS to feed all of her children) etc. etc. This is a problem most females have with Christianity, that my sister has a VERY perceptive and unique focus on. God MUST BE ALL (which I bolded above), God is all, and its too much for us to understand so we compartmentalize so our little brains can handle it, but really, God must be all! PS I have always been a Kinsey 1-6 scale advocate, where completely straight is 0, completely bi is 6 and most people are 1-5…not a gendering issue, but still brings in the issues of God, Sexuality, Gender and Sex. Hey if we can’t talk about our embodied experience, why the heck are we even worrying about religion, am i right?

Image

My son drew God, because he wanted to know what God looked like, he said that God is both a boy and a girl and not a boy in a girl and….”I think God is very big, because God takes care of everybody, and I think God is a rainbow, because God likes all colors. See these dots? These are all the people, they are all different kinds too…” ..and a child shall lead them, anyone, anyone?

How important was naming yourself as female? How did the naming effect the embodiment? Or how did the embodiment effect the naming? Was there an order to it, or did all come together?

Okay, there’s a lot of questions to this question and I just have to address them one at a time.

Hehehehe, I told my sister I wrote only 4 questions, but of course I cheated, layering question upon question, luckily my sister is brilliant (really brilliant she is the smartest one by far in my family) and she was able to pull apart my meaning…good thing she has practice, being related to me and all.

Naming myself as female changed my whole world. It was about comfort and knowledge as much as anything else. I collect stories, including those I experience, and there was always something wrong with the story of me as a male. It would be like reading Harry Potter but instead of the proper ending Voldemort kills all the muggles and takes over the world. It’s still a pretty good story, but it’s not right. It’s not the way that the story should go, and we know that somewhere in us. In a similar way, being male wasn’t ruining my life. It just wasn’t right, and somewhere within me knew that. So the naming and identifying put me back to the right story, and changed…well, everything to some extent. As for the naming/embodiment dynamic, I’d say it was (and still is) a pretty consistent back and forth. I’d look at my past- realize that I’d been skipping around in skirts at age 8 and pinning down my arm movements since age 10- and see how I’d been living it my whole life. Then I’d start doing something and the driving feeling would be “screw it, I feel like doing x-y-z because that’s what my gender says is comfortable, so I will.” In the past, I was still learning what made me comfortable and my physical actions in the past helped guide that. As I look more toward the future, and being a woman is an unshakeable part of my identity, I’d say the balance is more towards the naming- I chose this title and this gender and this life (well, I chose to act on it, anyway) So I might as well embrace the parts of it I like.

YAY! I love how the “naming” piece of my sister’s identity has brought her more into SELF….I can’t add to this

What questions and wonderings do you have about God or the human existence that are informed by your being/experience/embodiment on earth?

I have a very important, unanswerable question that involves only one word. Why? Why put people through rigors and trials? Why challenge people in ways that they sometimes cannot handle, or cannot handle at the time? Why love, why hate, why trust, why lie? In short, my question out of all of my gender and sexuality struggles, out of dysphoria, out of watching my friends and my family is the most basic and most complex question of all. Why do it? Why was I born into the wrong body? What did I need to learn or understand? What did I gain? What did I lose? Was it worth the cost? I have no answers. I’m left with just the resounding question, sounding a bit like a petulant five year old. Why?

Shepherd: What are we up to, sweetheart?
River: Fixing your Bible.
Shepherd: I, um.. what?
River: Bible’s broken. Contradictions, false logistics.. doesn’t make sense.
Shepherd: No, no, you can’t..

River: So we’ll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God’s creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels
already there. Eleven, important number, prime number. One goes into the house of eleven eleven times but always comes out one.

River: Noah’s Ark is a problem.
Shepherd: Really?

River: We’ll have to call it “early quantum state phenomenon”. Only way to fit 5,000 species of mammal on the same boat.
Shepherd: Give me that. River, you don’t… fix the Bible.
River: It’s broken! It doesn’t make sense.
Shepherd: It’s not about making sense, it’s about believing in something and letting that belief be real enough to change your life.
It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith, River, it fixes you.

See we are related! We love tough questions….My sister has a great quest ahead of her. Of course, I don’t have an answer…its just too good a question.

Here’s what I think, I know its not all bubbles and sunshine (though I wish that were the case–to see a bubbles and sunshine version of events read here). But I am honored to witness to it, I hope that I am deepened by it, and I am SO proud of her! I think she is an amazing, strong, brave and resilient person who NEVER GIVES UP already, and she’s 10 years younger than me. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

 

Read the Other Queer Synchoblog Posts!

Queering Our Reading of the Bible by Dwight Welch

Queer Creation in art: Who says God didn’t create Adam and Steve? by Kittrdge Cherry

Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) by Colin & Terri

God, the Garden, & Gays: Homosexuality in Genesis by Brian G. Murphy, for Queer Theology

Created Queerly–Living My Truth by Casey O’Leary

Creating Theology by Fr. Shannon Kearns

Initiation by Blessed Harlot

B’reishit: The Divine Act of Self-Creation by Emily Aviva Kapor

Queer Creation: Queering the Image of God by Alan Hooker

Queer Creation by Ric Stott

Eunuch-Inclusive Esther–Queer Theology 101 by Peterson Toscano

Valley of Dry Bones by Jane Brazelle

Queer Creation: Queer Angel by Tony Street

The Great Welcoming by Anna Spencer

Queer Creation by Billy Flood

The Mystery of an Outlandishly Queer Creation by Susan Cottrell

We’ve Been Here All Along by Brian Gerald Murphy

God Hirself: A Theology by T. Thorn Coyle

The Objectification of God by Marg Herder

Coming Out As Embodiments of God Herself by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott

An Interview by Katy

On Creation and Belonging by Andrew Watson

Creation by Liam Haakon Smith

Practically Creating Practical Queer Theology by Talia Johnson

Inspired Possibility: Opening the Gift of the Queer Soul by Keisha McKenzie

Oh What A Difference A Pope Makes! by Hilary Howes

I’m Really Angry by John Smid

Focus on the (Chosen) Family by Brian Cubbage

The Goddex by Thorin Sorensen

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